Politics Is Not About Being “Deserving”


There comes a time, every four years or so, when I do the unthinkable: I actually wish I were an American citizen. I wish I were an American so that I could vote in the U.S. presidential elections. After all, the United States is still arguably the most powerful country in the world, and much of the rest of the planet is watching with an incredulity now turning into grave concern as we grapple with the very real possibility that come November, Americans (in their anger and arrogance) will elect the most under-qualified, uneducated, and dangerous candidate either party has ever fielded (there may possibly have been more hateful presidential candidates or leaders in the past but those guys didn’t have access to nuclear weapons).

I speak, of course, of Donald Trump: reality-TV star, real estate tycoon, absentee father, fear mongerer, braggard, and, inconceivably, Republican presidential nominee. He can barely string a thought together (leading to suspicions he may actually be mentally unwell), and has never served in the military or demonstrably cared about Christian values,  the working poor, or the lower middle class prior to deciding he wanted to be president, but somehow he has become the champion of the disenfranchised white Christian, those Americans who feel the “good old days” have slipped away from them (due, somehow, to non-Christians and non-white people) and that they need Trump to “make America great again”.

This year’s Democratic candidate is arguably one of the most qualified candidates ever to run–Hillary Clinton has been both a U.S. Senator and a Secretary of State (in addition to being a lawyer and sitting on several corporate boards). Prior to her own political career she was heavily involved in husband Bill’s presidency as an active First Lady (too active, many felt). She has lived with the job of leading the United States, both in a professional and personal capacity, for years. She knows first-hand how hard it is, how much is at stake. Granted, she is not perfect–she is a spinner of half-truths and a deep-pocketed friend of Wall Street as much as any other high-ranking politician, but if Hillary Clinton were to become the President of the United States she would not blame any one race or religion for America’s problems, she would not close its borders to trade (as Trump suggests he would do despite the fact that his own brand manufacturers its products outside the U.S.), and she can be trusted not to use, or threaten to use, the United States’ nuclear forces cavalierly. And if she loses, she can be trusted not to suggest that violent or deadly action be taken against Trump, as Trump has suggested about her.

And yet. People just don’t think Hillary deserves to be president. Sure, she’s really qualified and sure, she graduated from Yale Law School and sure, she’s dedicated most of her life to public service (albeit much of it while making a shit-ton of money with her husband on the side), and sure, it’s about time the U.S. had a female president, and sure, Donald Trump would most likely blow up the entire earth because someone insulted the size of his hands or his genitals. But people just don’t like her, okay? They just don’t like her and they don’t want to reward her ambitions by letting her be president because she just doesn’t deserve it, okay? (Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face).

Here’s the thing: OF COURSE  Hillary Clinton does not deserve to be president. There is not one single human being on this earth who is deserving of the incredible and deadly amount of power that the President of the United States wields: power to create or destroy, to better this world or to decimate it. No one could ever be so intelligent, so prescient, so impartial, so ethical, and so morally perfect as to actually deserve this job–and anyone who was would never want it.

Which means that American voters, like most voters in modern democracies, must choose their leader based not on who deserves the job, because that is impossible, but on who would be best at it. And right now that person, for all her unlikable qualities, for all her machinations and manipulations and mistakes,  is Hillary Clinton. There is no viable “third candidate”.

And the alternative is simply unthinkable.

#BlackLivesMatter and there’s no good reason not to agree


For what it’s worth, this very white blogger (and her very white blog) believe that Black Lives Matter.

This is to say that the lives of black people (for example, the black people currently being fatally shot by police officers in staggering numbers south of the border) matter. They have worth. Extra-judicial killings of young black men by police officers (who come to police attention for matters as small as a broken taillight or “fitting a description”) are murder, and the reason these killings are indefensibly wrong is because black people are human beings, and their lives are worth EXACTLY the same as mine.

But wait a minute, many people are saying, don’t ALL lives matter? Don’t police officers’ lives matter? What about LGBTQ lives? Don’t Syrian refugee lives matter? Don’t children’s lives matter, and the lives of veterans or people with cancer or people living on the streets?

Of course they do. And I encourage you to promote the cause(s) of any lives that are important to you (and to get your OWN slogan instead of appropriating this one). Black Lives Matter isn’t about all lives, it is about specifically black lives, because this is a movement started specifically by black people, to deal with an issue that is specifically affecting black people.

What I don’t understand is why so many white people (generally good people who one would assume understand that killing innocent black people is wrong) aren’t okay with the idea that Black Lives Matter and instead insist on undermining this important and urgent movement by obstinately protesting that “All Lives Matter”.

Why so reactionary? Why so either/or, as if human worth is in finite supply, and granting it to black people takes it away from someone else?

We seem to be so uncomfortable with the idea that black lives might pull focus, just for a moment, that it’s like we aren’t even reading the English language properly anymore. Where in the sentence “Black lives matter” does it suggest that other lives don’t matter? Where does it suggest that if black lives matter, then police officers’ lives don’t? Where does it say, “Black lives matter MORE” or that “ONLY black lives matter”? It doesn’t. It doesn’t. Literally, the only thing that the statement “Black lives matter” says is that black lives matter. That’s it. If you aren’t okay with black people, who are literally DYING, asserting that their own lives matter, then you have a serious problem, and you need to ask yourself why you are against the idea that the value of a black person’s life is the same as the value of yours.

There are quite a few analogies going around on social media, and I don’t mean to trivialize the issue in any way, but they can be very helpful in illustrating this point.

For example, “Bob Deserves Food”:


I’ve seen other people compare All Lives Matter to, for example, protesting a breast cancer fundraiser because “ALL Cancers Matter”, or crashing someone’s funeral to chastise their grieving family for prioritizing the recognition of their loved one (“ALL Dead People Matter!”) You can pretty much take your pick of analogies, but at the end of the day, we need to acknowledge that there are countless situations where one group of people or one set of issues takes momentary focus, and when these movements aren’t aimed at a specifically non-white or non-heteronormative population, no one would ever dream of being offended by them. No one scolded Terry Fox–“Hey dude, ALL diseases matter.” No one chastises seniors advocacy groups for being “ageist”, no one goes after churches for not teaching the beliefs of all the other religions too. That would clearly be ridiculous, right?

And as for those folks who don’t believe we still have a race problem in (North) American society, I have this question (posed in the video below by activist and educator Jane Elliot) to ask you: would you like to be treated the way society treats black people?

I have thought a lot about whether or not I should be blogging about this movement, and I ultimately decided to use my white voice to talk to other white people about something tragically and vitally important. I am white. Black lives matter. There is nothing incongruous about this for me, nor should there be. If we are willing, dignity and justice are in infinite supply. Acknowledging that black people deserve these things as much as I do takes absolutely nothing from me.

P.S. Black Lives Matter has an excellent website. If you want to find out more about what the movement is and what it isn’t, what it says and what it doesn’t, what it means and what it doesn’t mean, please visit blacklivesmatter.com and let the learning start!

Why I Support Marriage Equality

Photo: Dylan O'Donnell 2010 (http://deography.com) - Public Domain

I first thought about writing this post back in July when I saw these portraits of newlywed same-sex couples in New York State on BuzzFeed.com. The snapshots of happy couples celebrating not only their love, but their right to legally express it, is the only proof I need that New York State did the right thing by recognizing same-sex marriage (although it was too long in coming). Naively, I think part of me thought this was all the proof anyone would ever need that legalizing same-sex marriage is not merely the kind thing to do, it is the right and just thing to do. Maybe I thought that this was all the proof anyone would need that far from destroying the sanctity of marriage, allowing people who have maintained a loving relationship through adversity to legalize this bond through marriage would only add deeper and fuller meaning to the institution.

But of course, and alas, I was wrong. As mind-boggling as it is to me, the idea that two consenting adults who love each other should be allowed to marry regardless of gender is not plain old common sense to many people, including here in Canada (you’ll find you don’t hear too many Conservative Party MPs speaking up in support of marriage equality).

I say mind-boggling not because I want to use some hyperbole today, but because I truly don’t understand. When I first found out what homosexuality was when I was a young, it was described to me as “when a man loves another man or a woman loves another woman.” Because back then I assumed that everyone who fell in love got married, I assumed this meant gay couples, being in love, would be getting married too. Much to my embarrassment, it was not actually until same-sex marriage was legalized in Saskatchewan in 2004 and I heard the hoopla surrounding it in the media that I was even aware that gay and lesbian couples had not previously been allowed to marry.

Having spent my entire youth assuming same-sex couples had the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples and being totally okay with it, not even giving it a second thought whatsoever, the idea that not everyone is okay with this, and that this is ANYONE else’s business besides the couple who wants to get married, was a total shock to me. It made no sense to me back then and it makes no sense to me now.

Last summer, I read US District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s ruling overturning California’s Proposition 8, a voter approved proposition renewing the State of California’s ban on same-sex marriage, on the grounds that it violates the rights of same sex couples. In the ruling, Judge Walker notes that,

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples.

If you wish to read Judge Walker’s entire ruling on Proposition 8, it is available on Scribd.com at the link provided.

Judge Walker’s ruling brought up other key points that I thought were important to address. Firstly, that it is in society’s best interest, both socially and economically, that couples marry, providing emotional, medical, and financial support for one another in family units (these interests do not rely on the couples being of opposite genders). The ruling also pointed out that while the supporters of Proposition 8 (the defendants in this ruling) claimed that the proposition protected children from harm, it had already been deemed unconstitutional for the State of California to refuse adoption to same-sex couples on the basis of their sexual orientation and therefore there was no legal precedent set with regards to needing to “protect” children from homosexuality.

I remember being shocked again, and also sickened, when I read the argument presented to the voters in 2008 in support of Prop. 8:

It protects our children from being taught in public schools that “same-sex marriage” is the same as traditional marriage. * * * While death, divorce, or other circumstances may prevent the ideal, the best situation for a child is to be raised by a married mother and father.

If the gay marriage ruling [of the California Supreme Court] is not overturned,  TEACHERS COULD BE REQUIRED to teach young children there is no difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage.

[This information is to be found on page 7 of the ruling]

This is the part that makes me sick. This is the part that makes me angry. This is the part that means I need to write this post. Because what IS the oh-so-vital difference between “traditional” marriage and same-sex marriage, hm? That it’s a loving bond between two consenting adults? Same in both marriages. That it is a legal bond joining two people who live together and share financial resources? Same in both marriages. That it provides a stable structure in which to raise a family? As proven by the number of same-sex couples that adopt or choose to have biological children, same in both marriages.

The only conclusion I can come to is that the defendants of Proposition 8 want to make sure that children know that heterosexual couples are better. Not for any specific reason, but because they just are. And if heterosexual couples are better, it follows that heterosexual people are better too, right? That homosexual people, despite making up 10% of the population, are abnormal, and inferior.  The sickest part of all is not that these people want to trumpet these values among themselves, but that it is so vital that the most important people to receive these messages of hate, and learn to hate and fear others, for reasons that at their age they wouldn’t even understand, are children.

Who’s harming children now? Certainly not loving couples who just want to get married.

The horrific, and too often fatal harm that this homophobic value has on children was brought home to me last Saturday when I watched the play Leave of Absence by Lucia Frangione, the third piece in an evening of works called “Short and Sweet”, presented by ACTivist Theatre and Amnesty International as part of this year’s Vancouver International Fringe Festival. I was incredibly upset by this piece, and the story of its protagonist Blake, a ninth-grader who falls victim to contempt, ostracism, and vicious brutality because she, and more importantly, her teachers and peers at her Catholic school, are confused by and afraid of her sexuality. The harmful effects that homophobic attitudes have on innocent children is made sickeningly evident in this beautifully written and tightly performed play.

Does Leave of Absence and the story of Blake deal with same-sex marriage? No, it does not. But when children are taught that some people are simply better than others (as they are when they are taught some marriages are better), they are also learning the inverse of this better-ness: that those who are not better, are worse. And that these people who are better are normal, while the others are deficient, deviant, and depraved. The saying “children are cruel” is a cliche because so often it seems true. Being a child is scary. Growing up is scary. Children, especially adolescents, are under intense pressure to live up to the expectations imposed by their parents, their school, the media, their peers, and themselves. They want to feel superior, and when you give them that chance, when you sanction and support the idea that some people are inferior to them, when you specifically point the inferior ones out as this one or that one, this gay boy, that lesbian girl, the intense pressure children are under finds a terrible outlet.

Instead of trying to figure out how such nice children could do such terrible things to each other, instead ask yourself who told these children that it was okay. Because if you have told a child that another person is worse than them, is disgusting and abnormal, you have told them that it is okay to behave in a hateful way towards that person. And the harm done is no one’s fault but your own.

One only needs to look at the impetus for the It Gets Better Project to see the real-life consequences of encouraging homophobia in children. Because of homophobia and homophobic attitudes, children are dead. I would posit that anyone who still believes that these innocent children deserved the treatment that led to their desperate actions is the one who is abnormal, deficient, and lacking a loving heart.

Many of the comments on online articles dealing with Proposition 8, for example, are so nonsensical and disgusting to me I can barely bring myself to read more than a few. The hatred being directed at people who just want to live their lives with the person they love is frankly alarming. Most of the arguments against same-sex marriage seem to take their position from the Bible. Well, guess what? You’re in a western democracy. Your country operates through a separation of church and state. It is not the government’s job to uphold your religious beliefs and force others to live by them. Your beliefs and your lifestyle are not the only way of living. If you don’t like it, find another Mayflower and go live on a deserted island where you can be as prejudiced as you like. If statistics are anything to go by, in a few generations, 10% of the population of your desert island will be gay, whether you allow them to express themselves or not.

Or, you know, you could stay where you are, and mind your own business. Because ultimately, even though I myself feel very strongly about marriage equality, whether or not two people decide to get married is none of my business. And it is none of yours. The love of two consenting adults, no matter their gender, does not diminish the love I have in my life. Should I choose to marry in the future, the marriage of two consenting adults, no matter their gender, will not diminish my marriage.

In fact, the more love and happiness there is in the world, the more respect and equality in society, the better every institution will be, the happier my life, and the safer my future children.